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Patagonia’s founder gives company away ‘to planet Earth’

Yvon Chouinard is transferring ownership of Patagonia – valued at $3bn – to a specially-designed trust and non-profit organisation that will help fight the climate crisis.

‘Hey, friends, we just gave our company to planet Earth,’ tweeted Patagonia last night.

‘OK, it’s more nuanced than that, but we’re closed today to celebrate this new plan to save our one and only home.’

The apparel brand, which is renowned for the outdoor clothing it’s been selling for almost five decades, has long acted as a frontrunner in the push for more sustainability in fashion.

To date, it has donated $140m to the restoration of natural ecosystems.

Now, going even further to set an example in environmental corporate leadership, founder Yvon Chouinard is transferring ownership – which is valued around $3bn – to two entities that will help fight the climate crisis.

Both the trust and non-profit organisation have been specially designed to preserve Patagonia’s independence and ensure that all of its profits (some $100 million a year) are used to safeguard the Earth’s future, as well as protect undeveloped land across the globe.

Coming at a time of rising scrutiny towards the billionaires and corporations who keep contributing to the very problems they claim to be dedicated to solving, Chouinard’s decision to relinquish his fortune is in keeping with his enduring disregard for business norms. That, and a lifetime spent caring deeply about the environment.

‘Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,’ he told The New York Times in an exclusive interview.

‘We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.’

As explained by Chouinard in an open letter he penned for the announcement, from the get-go, his sole purpose was to use Patagonia to do the right thing.

Witnessing the extent of global warming and ecological destruction as his company grew, he sought to change the system.

Yet no matter how many eco-friendly materials were used in the manufacture of Patagonia’s products; how many sales were donated; or how many certifications affirming the brand’s commitment he received over the years, nothing was enough.

‘We needed to find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company’s values intact,’ writes Chouinard, outlining the two choices he could have made (either selling Patagonia and donating all the money or taking it public) but chose not to because one wouldn’t guarantee the perpetuation of his ethics and the other would threaten long-term responsibility.

‘Truth be told, there were no good options available,’ he continues. ‘So, we created our own.’

How? By permanently transferring all of Patagonia’s voting stock into a recently established entity known as the Patagonia Purpose Trust.

The remaining 98% of Patagonia, its common shares, have been donated to a recently established non-profit organisation called the Holdfast Collective, which from this point onwards will receive all the company’s profits and use those funds to combat the climate crisis.

‘If we have any hope of a thriving planet 50 years from now, it demands all of us doing all we can with the resources we have,’ finishes Chouinard.

‘Despite its immensity, the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it’s clear we’ve exceeded its limits. But it’s also resilient. We can save our planet if we commit to it.’